Joel Poinsett


Joel Poinsett Essay, Research Paper

Joel Poinsett

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In 1825 President John Quincy Adams appointed Joel Poinsett as the first U.S. minister

to Mexico. His first assignment was to persuade the Mexican government to sell the

U.S. the province of Texas, thus continuing the rapid expansion of the American

democracy. The United States continued to pursue Texas with little success for the

next 20 years. It was not until December 1845 when the U.S. finally annexed Texas by

a joint resolution (and thus simple majority) . Immediately following the Texas

acquisition, and with U.S.-Mexico relations swiftly deteriorating, the U.S. wanted the

Mexican province of California, mainly for her harbours San Frasisco and San Diego. The

American policy towards Mexico which ensued in the following years was governed

almost exclusively by President James Polk’s personal opinions and actions, as well as

Nicholas Trist’s defiant behavior; a manifestation of the state-centric theory in which

key individual decision makers govern policy. In addition, Polk’s policies were secondarily

influenced by the consideration of relative power, American mass ideology, and Public


In 1845 President Polk began, cofidentially from the public, considering the annexation

of California. Polk’s initial desire was to simply purchase California, attempting to

maintain peace. He soon learned this would be impossible. When Polk ordered General

Taylor to cross the Nueces River and eventually to fortify on the Rio Grande, he fully

understood the possilble consequences of these actions. In fact, by deploying Taylor

and his troops, Polk putting a slow squeeze on the Mexicans which would leave them

with no other option than to strike back. Polk waited for the initial attack to be made

by the Mexicans and then struck back. Polk claimed that American blood had been

spilled on American soil, thus garnering enough public and congressional support to

declare war on Mexico safe from domestic unrest. Norman Graebner states that, ” Polk

was too astute a politician to favor any cause until public opinion had crystallized “1

Although the war decleration contained no reference to the territorial conquest, Polk’s

persaonal diary conveys his clandestine intentions of acquiring the much coveted

California as well as New Mexico. The intentions of the President to occupy Mexico

undoubtedly took into consideration public opinion, but the most prominent reason for

the decleration of war was Polk’s belief that california was a strong economic and

militarily strategic addition to the U.S. Secretary of Navy George Bancraft noted that

the acquisition of California was among Polk’s top four priorities from the outset of his

administration, however, Polk had kept this under wraps. Glenn Price also points out

that, “…the Mexican War was a result of President Polk utilizing Texas as a means to

achieve annexation of California. “2 It is quite evident that Polk may have been

following his own personal agenda in regards to acquiring Mexican territories, and

beginning a war to do so.

Unquestionably the most important domestic issue in the years prior to the American

Civil War was slavery. John C. Calhoun recognized that, …if the treaty ending the

conflict was silent on the subject of slavery in the ceded territory, the North will

oppose it, and if it should prohibit slavery the South would, and in either event there

would be a constitutional majority.

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